Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, March 28, 2008

Jennifer Weiner and her Certain Girls

While I was reading Jennifer Weiner's new book Certain Girls recently(I stayed up late to finish it last night),I kept thinking about the first time that I ever read any of her work. At my old book store job,we kept numerous piles of ARCs(Advance Reading Copies)downstairs,in the unofficial staff lounge area.

Most of them were stacked upon an old credenza that took up most of the back wall and in the small shelving spaces that faced out onto the round table where book buying appointments and staff meetings were held,along with eating your lunch that was either stashed in the mini fridge or brought from one of the shops nearby.

It was during my lunch break when I spotted Good In Bed and to be honest,I wasn't all too keen on it at first glance,with it's suggestive title and cover art. However,I did what good readers are supposed to do and gave it a chance. After finishing the book,I knew that I had a new favorite author to add to my list to be on the look out for.

One of the main reasons that I liked Good In Bed was that I could relate to Cannie Shapiro much more easily than some of the other chick lit heroines at the time. Cannie's emotional struggles and dealing with her weight issues had more of a realistic tinge to them than ,say,Bridget Jones. Now,I like the Bridget Jones books just fine(and adore the first movie based on them-the second one is amusing at times but very so-so overall)but based upon my own experiences as a large sized woman,Cannie walked the walk with more cred than ditzy Bridget could or ever would.

It's not just the big girls thing that made me seek out more of Weiner's books-she's also very funny and knows just how to write an engrossing narrative that keeps you turning the pages as eagerly as a video gamer works their way up to the next level on World Of Warcraft(or whatever game is popular these days). She has a true knack for creating characters that snap,crackle and pop with interest and intelligence.

Weiner also devels into deeper waters at times,like many other female friendly writers who can be judged too quickly based on book covers such as Anna Maxted and Marian Keyes. Some of the topics that can be found in her books include unexpected pregnancy,family members with mental illness,grandparents having to stay away from their grandchildren due to family secrets or past abusive behavior,sibling rivalry and the ups and downs of motherhood.

Another strong Weiner trait is the bond between family and friends,those ties that bind but also give support and affection at times of crisis and moments of shared joy. A great example of such shared joy can be seen in the film version of In Her Shoes(a vastly underrated movie and one that more people should see)when little sister Maggie(Cameron Diaz) expresses her love for her big sister Rose(the amazing Toni Collette)by reading a poem at Rose's wedding:

So,what is Certain Girls about? Well,it brings us back to Cannie,now married for over a decade to Peter,a good and understanding man and getting her nearly teenaged daughter Joy(also shares the narrative here)ready for her bat mitzvah.

Joy is not thrilled with her mother's protective nature and has a lot of questions about the past after reading Cannie's semi-autobiographical novel that hit the bestseller lists years ago but brought Cannie plenty of unwanted attention and press(she now writes a series of sci-fi novels under a pen name).

A main clash of the generations occurs over the plans for the bat mitzvah,in which Joy wants a fancy theme party like many of her classmates have and Cannie prefers to hold a more simple and less overdone celebration. You're able to see both sides of the debate here,as Joy longs for a real feminine and stylish debut and Cannie only wants to instill some more mature and positive ideals into her daughter and not hold a Super Sweet Sixteen/Stupid Girls kind of shindig:

The bigger battles come up over the horizons as Joy goes on a secret fact finding mission to find out just how much of her mom's novel,Big Girls Don't Cry, is based on their lives and to seek out her estranged grandfather. Cannie,meanwhile,is not only trying to figure out how to reestablish her relationship with Joy but having a second child as well and due to the complications from her last pregnancy,she and Peter go looking for a suitable surrogate mother(Cannie evens asks her flighty younger sister, who now insists on being called "Elle", to do the honors but the response she gets is less than enthusiastic).

Don't be held off from Certain Girls by thinking "Oh,I need to read the other book first"-there's a good amount of backstory and recap given to keep new folks in the loop as well as refresh the memories for those who haven't given Good In Bed a reread lately.

Certain Girls is not just a sequel to be snapped up while surfing the New Releases section,it's a sensational book in the best Weiner style,with it's mix of humor,love and pathos that brings the characters to vivid,breathing life and gives you a small pang of loss at departing such endearing company as you get closer to the end. I had a bit of that myself as I tried to go to sleep after reading the last page.

The book will be sale April 8,and I hope that it not only pleases other Jennifer Weiner fans out there but gathers up a few new ones as well. As for me,I still haven't read her collection of short stories,The Guy Not Taken,yet which gives me something to look forward to.

I was hoping to meet Jennifer Weiner at the last BEA I attended,but she had to cancel her signing appearance due to being pregnant with her second child(Congrats to her and her loved ones there). Perhaps another opportunity will arise for me to see her somewhere and thank her for all of the good times she's given me over the years. If not,I thank Jennifer Weiner right here and now,for showcasing the talents of a smart and sensitive literary woman and inspiring others to follow her lead:

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